Helping students get system dependencies installed

I include a short sequence of lessons to introduce computer programs development as a necessary step in the 'forest inventory' course I give to undergraduate forestry students (that have generally had no previous exposure to the topic).
I find it essential to step directly into notebook writing. I find that Rmd in RStudio is an excellent choice since the student can then evolve to the level she/he prefers.
I always have a big problem with the installation phase. This year almost all of the students didn't manage to complete the minimal Tex installation required to render their work as pdf file.
That is why I looked into this topic and was interested in @alexkgold's answer suggesting RStudio Package Manager. So I went deeper and discovered that Base option costs 5 thousand US dollars!! (did I get the figure right?) That is not a solution for my case, it is too expensive. (By the way, would it be enough if I bought it or would this solution imply that every student should pay that much?)
Do you have any other suggestion?
Many thanks, Roberto

Hi @scotti,

We have this problem all the time with our own workshops, so I totally feel your pain.

RStudio Package Manager is a server product, so you'd need one license and could serve packages to your whole class. That said, if the step you're getting hung up on is installing system packages (like Tex) on individual student laptops, RStudio Package Manager isn't going to help that much.

One thing I'd definitely recommend is having your students install Tex via the TinyTex R package if you're not already. It's definitely the easiest way to get Tex up and running for use with RMarkdown.

Another option would be to have the students use rstudio.cloud. RStudio.cloud is an online server environment where you could provision classrooms for your students to work. It would let them get up and running in an RStudio session by just logging in with credentials you'd provide. RStudio.cloud is currently free as it's still in its alpha version.

Hope that's helpful!

Hello. Many thanks for your reply, very kind of you and really helpful.
Yes I tried to "install Tex via the TinyTex R package " but with limited success among students. Since you suggest it I will try harder next time
While I was not aware of RStudio.cloud! That could be a great solution (if university WiFi will support me!)
Last year I used https://labs.cognitiveclass.ai/tools/rstudio-ide/ but the wifi was not sufficiently supportive!
I will let you know my experience this year.
Best regards,

Roberto Scotti - Nuoro Forestry School

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